Visiting the United States? There are 50 states to see. If you want to step into a 19th-century whaling village, shop for antiques and collectibles in one-of-a-kind boutiques, and sample award-winning seafood and pizza, you can do it in Connecticut.

Come to Connecticut, and you’ll discover a place of contrasts: grand old houses and contemporary architecture, sandy coastline and dense forests, the relaxed pace of small-town New England and the vibrant urban nightlife of theaters and casinos. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s all within a fairly short distance, since Connecticut is geographically small.

Connecticut’s location is another bonus. Because it’s nestled between New York City and Boston, it can serve as your base for exploring all of New England, and you can take day trips to Manhattan as well. Or you can focus exclusively on Connecticut’s many attractions and stay at a historic inn with a water view.

Read more about Connecticut and check out the other 49 states. If you need a visa to visit, here’s how to get one.

(State Dept.)

Happy trails

If you love the outdoors, you’ll enjoy exploring Connecticut’s rolling hills, rich forests, waterways and sandy coastline. You can hike along trails ablaze with autumn colors, and go kayaking or skiing. Brave souls can also ride river rapids or try zip lining through treetops.

At Connecticut’s Wadsworth Falls, spectacular autumn foliage enhances the view. (Shutterstock)

A connection to the sea

New England’s coastal communities have a rich maritime tradition, and nowhere is this more evident than in Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, which recreates an early American whaling village. Visitors to Mystic Seaport are encouraged to climb aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world.

The area’s maritime history isn’t confined to the distant past: Connecticut is also home to the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. Launched in 1954 and decommissioned in 1980, the preserved vessel — now a submarine museum in Groton — welcomes some 250,000 visitors a year.

The 19th-century whaling ship Charles W. Morgan is a potent symbol of Connecticut’s maritime history. (Creative Commons)

Food, glorious food

Don’t forget to sample the original pizza served in New Haven; it consistently tops “best pizza” lists across the United States. And be sure to treat yourself to the region’s fresh seafood. Local fishermen bring in their daily catch and deliver it to restaurants throughout Connecticut, so most eateries will have New England favorites like lobster and Stonington’s Bomster scallops on the menu.

New Haven has some of the best pizza in the United States. (Creative Commons)

All the world’s a stage

Do you thrive on drama? Check out the seasonal offerings at Yale Repertory Theatre, located at the edge of Yale University’s main downtown campus in New Haven. This award-winning playhouse, which occupies the former Calvary Baptist Church, fosters collaborations between theater professionals and talented drama students. Who knows, you might catch a performance by the next Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro!

Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven offers world premieres of new works as well as productions of established plays. (Shutterstock)

Ticket to ride

New Haven’s a great place for live theater, shopping and fine dining, but no visit there would be complete without a trip to Lighthouse Point Park, home to the Lighthouse Point Carousel. Built in 1916, the restored carousel — considered an important example of American folk art — is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits within a pavilion open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Rides cost only 50 cents, and organ music accompanies carousel riders on their flights of fancy.

The historic Lighthouse Point Carousel in New Haven delights children and adults alike. (Versageek/Creative Commons)